In football-obsessed Costa Rica, searching for a big-time baseball talent is often a fruitless task. That didn’t stop a Major League club from scooping up right-handed Costa Rican pitching prospect Bryan Solano.
On Thursday, the 19-year-old Limón native signed a contract with the Houston Astros, becoming the first Tico signed to a Major League Baseball (MLB) club in eight years.
Currently playing in Nicaragua’s MLB developmental league, Solano is said to have an arsenal that includes a fastball north of 90 miles per hour, a solid slider, and an improving curveball.
At Thursday’s press conference, held at Antonio Escarré Park in San José, agent Álvaro Montalván recalled the day trainers brought Solano to Nicaragua more than a year ago on a recommendation from a friend and scout.
“We had him go into the bullpen and he seemed like an intriguing prospect to us,” Montalván said. “He’s a fast-armed prospect that relies on two types of pitches: a slider and a fastball. He came to us with velocity problems, reaching 87 mph when he should have been reaching a minimum of 90 mph. After some training throughout this time we’ve been able to get him throwing up to 92 mph.”
Solano will begin in Houston’s farm system, where the team will be able to call him up the minor league ladder and possibly even give him a shot at the majors. The Astros are slated to start Solano off in the Dominican Republic summer league that begins in a matter of weeks.
“Bryan is an athletic righty with a good pitch repertoire,” scout Locadio Guevara, who signed Solano, told reporters at the press conference. “He throws a lot of strikes and keeps his ball count low.
“For our manager Jeff Luhnow and our international director Oz Campo, it’s of great pride that we have a Costa Rican player signed on to our farm system,” the scout added.
According to Montalván, the contract runs for an indefinite amount of time and depends entirely on Solano’s progress and conduct on and off the baseball diamond.
Alex Torres was the last Costa Rican-born player with an MLB contract in 2009 as part of the Cleveland Indians organization.
“This is the reward for his hard work and toughness during all this time as a pitcher for the National Team and during national games,” said Vladimir Murillo, president of the Costa Rican Baseball Federation. “We are very proud as a federation and as a country to see him reach these heights. This can also open the door for more organizations to look at Costa Rica as a place for talent.”